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Italian Volpino

Nicole Cosgrove

volpino italiano

The Italian Volpino is a small Spitz type purebred dog from Italy. It was bred to be a watchdog and was also a companion to the ladies and to the common people hundreds of years ago. It has a sparkling, outgoing and spirited personality. As well as being a great companion it is also active and does well in canine sports such as rally, agility and nose work. It has a life span of 14 to 16 years making it quite a long lived breed.

Italian Volpino at a Glance
Name Italian Volpino
Other names Cane del Quirinale, Florentine Spitz, Italian Spitz
Nicknames Volpino
Origin Italy
Average size Small
Average weight 9 to 11 pounds
Average height 10 to 12 inches
Life span 14 to 16 years
Coat type Soft, dense undercoat and a topcoat of rough, protective guard hairs
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black, white, red and tan
Popularity Not a registered member of the AKC
Intelligence High
Tolerance to heat Good but nothing too hot
Tolerance to cold Good to very good
Shedding Moderate – will be some hair around the home
Drooling Low to moderate – not especially prone
Obesity Average – measure its food and make sure it gets enough exercise
Grooming/brushing Moderate – brush twice a week
Barking High – will need to be trained to stop on command
Exercise needs Moderate – somewhat active, will need some time outside every day
Trainability Easy to moderate
Friendliness Very good to excellent
Good first dog Very good
Good family pet Very good to excellent with socialization
Good with children Very good to excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Good to very good – require socialization
Good with other pets Very good with socialization
Good with strangers Very good with socialization
Good apartment dog Very good to excellent due to size but barking could be a problem
Handles alone time well No – does not like being left alone for long periods
Health issues Mostly a healthy breed, some issues include eye problems, heart problems and patellar luxation
Medical expenses $435 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $75 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $195 a year for toys, license, training and miscellaneous items
Average annual expenses $705 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $800
Rescue organizations None breed specific, check local shelters and rescues
Biting Statistics None reported “

The Italian Volpino’s Beginnings

The Italian Volpino is believed to have been bred from ancient European Spitz dogs several hundred years ago. It might look like the Pomeranian but in fact it is a completely different and older breed. It was a much loved lap dog and companion of noble and royal ladies as well as being popular with regular people too. Thanks to its alertness it was kept as a watchdog too on farms and would let the larger guard dogs know if someone was coming into their territory. Being small they did not eat as much as those larger dogs too! It is said it was the Volpino that kept Michelangelo company when he painted the Sistine Chapel between 1508 and 1512. He also put it in his paintings and on that famous ceiling, check out the left side third from the back next time you go visit!

In the late 1800s and early 1900s Italian immigrants came to North America and brought with them their Spitz dog. However they were not recognized as a breed there. In 1888 Quen Victoria went to Italy and bought some. In Italy its first standard was written in 1903 by the ENCI, the Italian Kennel Club. In 1956 it was recognized by the FCI but for some reason its popularity dwindled until for a while the last registered dog was in 1965. The small number that remained were being kept by farmers. The name comes from the latin word for fox ‘vulpes’ referring to its appearance.

New Lease on Life

Thankfully the Italian Kennel Club and specifically Enrico Franceschetti made efforts to revive the breed in 1984 that were successful. Numbers have been improved upon in Italy but is still very rare even there. North American breeders are also working on re-establishing the Italian Volpino. In 2006 it was recognized by the UKC but it does not have it from the AKC. This may be partly due to not high enough numbers and also because of the AKC’s reluctance to recognize other Spitz breeds that look like the American Eskimo dog. Its numbers are very very low in the US and the total estimated number globally is 4000. In 2006 a survey found 120 were being registered in Italy a year, a total of 200 to 300 in Europe and 20 in the US.

The Dog You See Today

The Italian Volpino is a small breed weighing 9 to 11 pounds and standing 10 to 12 inches tall. It has a squared build and small frame and has a bushy tail that it holds curled over its back. Its head is wedge shaped with a straight muzzle, pointy ears that are fox like and eyes that are set deep and are dark. Its coat is double, dense, rough, very long and straight. On the muzzle and ears it is shorter and smoother. There is longer hair around the neck creating a ruff. Common colors are red, white, tan and black.

The Inner Italian Volpino


This breed is very spirited, lively, playful and social. It is curious and inquisitive and is intelligent and quick. In the right home it is loyal and friendly and bonds closely to its family. It is alert and will let you know if someone is approaching or if someone is trying to break in, it also does have protective instincts and while it might not be large enough to have much threat behind it, it will try anyway. That bark can be frequent though and training to stop it on command is a good idea. Being dedicated to its owner and family it does not like to be left alone for long periods of time. It needs a good amount of affection and attention too.

With other people it tends to be quite friendly, it likes people it knows coming over, that is more people to fuss over it. It wants to be the center of attention and will expect to be included in family activities. With strangers it is a bit more wary. Like a cat it likes to lie in the sun and snooze and it is quite adaptable, able to adjust to the kind of lifestyle its owners prefer.

Living with an Italian Volpino

What will training look like?

The Volpino Italiano is intelligent and can be moderately easy to easy to train with the right approach. It should be trained and socialized from an early age and some can have an independent side to them that may need dealing with. This means do not spoil it just because it is attractive and small! Be firm and the clear pack leader. Set rules and be consistent, patient and confident in how you enforce them. Be positive though, reward, encourage, praise, avoid scolding or punishing. It is very food motivated so treats are a great idea. Socialization will involve introducing it to different people, places, animals, sounds and situations so it learns the appropriate responses.

How active is the Italian Volpino?

While it is an adaptable breed it does need daily activity still. One or two short walks a day along with some play time with you should be enough. It also needs safe off leash time where it can run around and explore. It does well in certain doggy sports if you want to take it that far. It can live in an apartment if it gets outside daily but as with all dogs access to even a small yard is always a bonus. A place where it can explore, play and such.

Caring for the Italian Volpino

Grooming needs

The Italian Volpino will need to be brushed a couple of times a week and it sheds a moderate amount so there will be some hair around the home to clean up too. It does not require professional care, everything can be done by you if you choose. The hair between the pads in its feet needs trimming and it should be given a bath with a dog shampoo just when it really needs one. Give the coat a comb to remove tangles before it has a bath.

It also needs to have its ears checked weekly for infection signs like swelling, redness, bad odor and such. If they are fine give then a careful wipe clean using a damp cloth or dog ear cleaning solution. Please be careful not to push into its ears but rather just wipe what is easy to reach. Otherwise damage can be done and it hurts. Likewise its nails need to be clipped when too long but care has to be taken here too. Half way down the nail it changes and there are blood vessels and nerves in them. If you nick there it will bleed a lot and hurt it a great deal too. Its teeth should be brushed regularly also, two to three times at least and use a dog toothbrush and toothpaste.

Feeding Time

It will eat about ¾ to 1 cup of a good quality dry dog food a day, split into at least two meals. Be sure to give it water that is changed when possible to keep it fresh. The amount it eats can change from one dog to another because things like metabolism, age, health, size and activity level have an impact.

How is the Italian Volpino with children and other animals?

The Italian Volpino can be very good, even excellent with children with socialization and especially if raised with them. It may be a good idea though to supervise it with younger children just because its small size means toddlers can hurt it accidentally with their pulling and pushing. Make sure you teach them how to touch and be kind and play nicely with it. It can also get along with other pets and with other dogs too with socialization. Just make sure you keep an eye on it with larger dogs, small dogs tend to get bossy with dogs that are a lot bigger regardless of the danger that can bring from aggressive large dogs!

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

This dog has a long life span for a dog, it can live for 14 to 16 years. It is a fairly healthy breed but some issues to be aware of include heart problems, patellar luxation, eye problems and ear infections.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of canines attacks against people over the last 35 years in Canada and the US there is no mention of the Italian Volpino. The fact is though that there really are no 100% safe dog breeds. Any dog can become aggressive, snap or act out. Certain situations or stress factors can have different impacts on different days. The best way to lessen the risk of your dog Volpino becoming aggressive is to give it what it needs in terms of activity, stimulation, attention and affection, training and socialization.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

An Italian Volpino puppy is going to cost about $800. That will get you a puppy that is pet quality from a trusted and good breeder. If you want a show dog or one from a top breeder then this will go up to the several thousand. Getting a rescue dog is another option as you get to give a dog a new home and loving family. It will cost about $50 to $300 and there will be medical needs taken care of for you. It is important to note though that most dogs that need re-homing tend to be adolescent or adult age not a puppy. It is also hard to find specific purebreds, especially rare ones like this. Please avoid places like pet stores, backyard breeders and other places like puppy mills.

There will be initial costs covering things the dog will need at home like a carrier, crate, collar and leash and such for about $100. Then initial medical needs like a physical exam, blood tests, deworming, vaccinations, micro chip and spaying or neutering come to about $260.

Owning a dog means taking responsibility for its ongoing needs too. Annual costs for a good quality dry dog food and treats come to about $75. Miscellaneous costs such as miscellaneous items, toys, license and basic training come to about $195 a year. Then basic health costs each year for check ups, health insurance, shots and tick and flea prevention come to around $435. Annual total costs to own an Italian Volpino come to $705 a year as a starting figure.


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Owners who are looking for a small dog full of personality, somewhat active, gets along with most people and animals and is affectionate and loyal could do well with the Italian Volpino. Take care with its size though, small dogs can be seriously injured and even killed with accidental kicks, or being dropped. It is very rare so finding a good breeder will take a bit more patience.

Featured Image Credit: Natalia Fedosova, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.